The Question Conservatives Often Get Wrong

Would you take $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue increases?  Conservatives consistently say, “Absolutely not!”  This is the wrong answer.  The Washington Monthly, recalls all 8 Republican candidates running for president back in 2011 said they wouldn’t take this deal.  Marco Rubio said that he wouldn’t take this deal in an interview on The Daily Show.  It seems the presidential candidates in 2015 seemed on the same page to not take the deal.  Why not?

Why Don’t Conservatives Take This Deal?

That’s a good question, and I’ve seen a lot of explanations.  Let’s take a quick look at a few of them:

1.  Grover Norquist and the American for Tax Reform’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that most Republicans signed.  Signers of the pledge agreed to oppose any increase in the marginal income tax rate and oppose an reduction or elimination of credits unless they went with a reduction in the income tax rate of greater or equal amount.
2.  Spending cuts are usually temporary while tax increases are more permanent.
3.  Republicans don’t trust Democrats to actually follow through and cut spending if they take this 10-1 deal.
4.  Some Republicans feel that any tax increase would stifle the economy and end up reducing revenue in the long run.
5.  Some feel spending cuts aren’t really cuts in actual spending, but instead just lower levels of future spending that are still higher than current levels.

Related: Don’t Accept the Lesser of Two Evils

What Are Conservatives Missing?

Most of these responses are too specific for the situation.  This question seems to be presented in debates, interviews, and generally vague situations.  There is not an actual bill in place with specifics of what would be cut, where the increase would occur, etc.  I doubt you could ever get Democrats to agree to this type of deal for it to even be a real-world situation.  Because we are talking about a hypothetical situation, conservatives should totally take this deal-every time.  Why?

The question really boils down to, “Are you willing to compromise?”  If you get 10 of what you want, are you willing to give up 1 of what you don’t want?  To continuously fight this, just perpetuates the idea that Republicans are obstructionist and unwilling to work for the better good.  Put any clauses or stipulations in the answer that you want.

“Yes, if it is real spending cuts.”
“Yes, if the cuts are permanent.”
“Yes, if the cuts are to __________ programs.”
“Yes, as long as the tax increase is used for _________.”

I don’t care what stipulations that you put on it.  The correct answer is that “Yes, I will give up 1 of what I don’t want to get 10 of what I do want.”

What Would It Mean?

Would it end up being a positive thing?  If you turn this deal down, you will be at 0, right?  No reduced spending, but no tax increase.  If you take the deal, you are -9 to the better right?  (-10 savings+1 tax= -9 from current levels)  Taking this deal, you are helping the deficit and the debt by a factor of 9 vs turning the deal down.  Isn’t this the direction that conservatives want to move?

Also, what if you answer with “Yes, as long as the tax increase is used for educational programs.”  If you are taking this revenue and creating job training, financial literacy classes, etc, you will be creating more skilled workers.  Then, you can get more people off social safety net programs and into the workforce based on this education and new skills.  In the long run, the tax increase will more than pay for itself.  Jon Stewart pointed some of this out in the extended interview with Marco Rubio.

Related: Why Support Third Parties?


Personally, I am generally against tax increases, as I think the government is not the most efficient way of solving most problems.  However, it frustrates me to continue hearing Republicans and conservatives dig their heals in against the idea of tax increases, even for a hypothetical scenario that is heavily in their favor.  All of the nation’s problems are complex.  They aren’t going to be solved in 30-second sound bytes, and it’s frustrating when 1 side seems unwilling to listen and unwilling to compromise.  We can do better.  I think it’s going to take new leadership, and hopefully we see the transition, whether it is within the Republicans or from new leadership rising up from Libertarians and other conservative groups.

Greg Martin Contributor Independent FloridaGreg Martin is a contributor for Independent Florida.  He considers himself a moderate libertarian, but tries to promote all 3rd parties.  Outside of politics, Greg enjoys playing disc golf, playing with his boxer, and hanging out anywhere with live music.

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